Cyber-Attacks Must Be Taken Seriously Before It’s Too Late

Cyber Attacks Small Business

Cyber-crime is on the rise, and it is something that is becoming an issue of note. There is a lot of complacency among small business owners when it comes to cyber-attacks. It’s just not large companies that hackers are targeting. In fact, 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses. Today, we wanted to share the story of a client of ours named “Tom” to illustrate the damage they can cause.

Thinking about making changes to your business? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Tom’s Story

Tom was a new business. He had spent months slowly building up his e-mail list. While he was building his list, he didn’t do much e-mail marketing. Tom planned to wait for a while before hitting people too soon with a marketing message. A smart move, but it left him vulnerable to this type of attack. 

One day, Tom was going through his e-mail and came upon an innocuous e-mail from a company with which he did business. What he didn’t notice was the sent from address was not the same as the company with which he does business. He was busy, it wasn’t top of mind. He clicked the link.  

Nothing happened at first. A few days later, he was hit by a barrage of unsubscribes from that list he had been so carefully building. He didn’t get it until he saw that they all had been sent spam mailTom’s site was blacklisted, and his e-mail service dropped him. All that work was just lost with one scam. Tom was the victim of a cyber-attack. 

A cyber-attack can cripple your business without you even knowing what's about to happen

It took Tom several months to recover. He had to prove to his hosting service that he wasn’t responsible. That was no easy task. In their mind, he was. He was responsible for the site’s security, and due to what they viewed as his lax security protocols, he violated their policies. The same was true for the e-mail service provider. He eventually got it sorted out, but it cost him both time and money, consequences of the cyber-attack that went far deeper than just changing his username and password. 

Tom Isn’t Alone

Taking cyber-attacks seriously is important for any business owner

Verizon published a report that showed that 43% of all cyber-attacks target small to medium-sized businesses, and the number keeps rising. Why? Well, according to a recent study released by Keeper Security, two-thirds of small to medium-sized business owners do not personally feel threatened by the possibility of cyber-attacks. This makes them easy targets since 60% do not have a plan to prevent attacks from happening. This is alarming as it has been reported that 60% of small businesses that suffer a cyber-attack go out of business within 6 months of the attack. Luckily, Tom wasn’t one of them, but from Tom’s example, you can see how that might happen.

What to Do to Prevent a Cyber-Attack?

There are several security steps to take, but at the very least, contact your insurance broker to get some cyber-insurance. By going through this process, you will learn what tools they feel are most effective for you and will help you lower your rates. Also, be aware of signs for of phishing attacks and things of the sort. But more thaanything, be smart. Do what you can to avoid being a case like Tom, which you’ll pay for later on.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

What to Do if You Get a Bad Review

A one star review can be very bad for business

There are so many review sites these days, it’s hard to keep up. But a bad review can be hard to manage, especially when you’re new. Shifts in technology trends can change many things for a company, and our client Donna learned that lesson the hard way. 

Donna owns a small retail shop that had recently opened in Manhattan. She was growing well and was off to a good start. But while I love New Yorkit isn’t out of the question to say that New Yorkers can be blunt and harsh critics. Donna had one difficult client interaction, which turned into several months worth of headaches. The client left unsatisfied and left a scathing 1-star review on Google. Initially, Donna wrote it off and went on with her day. Unfortunately for Donna that was the wrong thing to do.

Unsure of how to take your business from good to great? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

What Donna Didn’t Know About Bad Reviews

A recent study showed that a bad review on Google My Business can hurt you much more than one on Yelp or Facebook. The study showed that the impact of a poor Google rating had twice the effect of a bad review on Yelp. It had nearly 4 times the negative effect than Facebook. Ouch, right? We can only speculate as to why, but it’s likely that review ratings are part of the local search algorithm. Therefore, businesses with a lower review rating may be shown less. It’s also easier to leave a Google review so that could be a factor as well. 

What Donna Should Have Done

A Bad Review is all it takes to hurt a business

No matter how big or small your business is, someone should be checking and responding to customer reviews regularly. You might be thinking“of course, doesn’t everyone?” But, it’s easy to think that when you are not pulled away by a thousand different things. Plus if it was a negative review, the interaction probably wouldn’t be pleasant for you, either. It would be hard not to get emotionally invested in it. The first step is to try to depersonalize the situation. It’s hard, but that separation is necessary. Otherwise, you can’t follow this golden rule:  the first one who acts irrationally will lose. Acknowledge that you heard them. Focus on the facts. Be professional. Never lose your cool. 

What We Did for Donna

Since Donna didn’t act on the review, it stuck. She started to see her local search numbers fall and her organic traffic took a nosedive. How could one review do that? It was her 1st review. Donna needed to fix this quickly. We started a program offering discounts for a Google review. We were clear that we wanted their honest feedback. It was solely a means of encouraging them to act. And most importantly: it worked. Within 2 weeks, we had 20 reviews. It took a month or so to recover fully. But recover Donna did, and her bad review problem went away. We also encouraged her to hire a social media manager to monitor her comments and act on any comments within 24 hours. 

 

A bad review isn't the end of the world

With how much business is done online nowadays, it is easy to see how a bad review can sink a business. But by keeping on top of it and staying smart, you can avoid problems like Donna’s. And importantly, we are happy to help you do that, because it is important to help your business grow, and we want to be there for it. 

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Half of Small Business Owners Worry About Money. Why?

If you worry about money, your business may suffer

Business owners come to us often with a fear that a lot of people have: do I have enough money? Either living paycheck to paycheck or having to take out loans, businesses worry about the amounts of money they have on hand.

A recent study from DaySmart Software reported the #1 worry for US small business owners is making enough money. We’ve highlighted this topic before in our post, “How Not to Live Paycheck to Paycheck when Running a Successful Small Business”. We’ve discussed how to manage costs and not waste money, but thought that we would speak about it again. Because to us, it is clear that this is keeping small business owners up at night.

Money worries can cripple businesses

Feeling like your business isn’t going the right way? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Using Technology to Manage Day to Day Tasks Seems to Help

Being worried about money can hurt small businesses

Going digital vs. manual is one approach offered to quash your money worries. Remember, this research was sponsored by a software company, but the general technology trends are arguably valid. The adoption of software to help with business management tended to do better than those that did not. Some of the reasons offered were reducing manual labor over paperwork, increased customer satisfaction, and more time.

In Which Technologies Are Business Owners Investing?

The simple answer is operations. The second is in marketing. The final is in digital security. All three are sound investments. Simplifying operations by using a simple POS system is much better than manually managing a cash drawer. Automating invoicing and accounting makes a ton of sense. Automating social media is another way to save time and money. Even automating some marketing functions such as e-mail drip campaigns and the like are also time savers. As we mentioned before, security threats are real and are focusing more on small businesses where hackers believe security is laxer.

What’s Holding Business Owners Back From Their Money Worries?

The main barriers to faster adoption are money, lack of expertise, confusion over the right tools, and security threats. Just Google one of these services and it’s clear why business owners are confused. There are a dizzying array of options. The key takeaway from this survey is that business owners are worried about money. Technology can help alleviate that worry somewhat, but we need help to know what would work best to keep on growing as a company.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

How Not to Get Hooked by a Phishing Attack

Hooked by a Phishing Attack

Getting hooked by phishing attacks are costly.  In fact, the average cyber attack costs small businesses $53,987. Phishing attacks are the most common. So, how do you not get hooked by one?

We created a short video, highlighting the key elements based on an overview
by CITRIX®
published on SmallBizTrends.

[Phishing is] “A type of online scam that targets consumers
by sending them an e-mail that appears to be from a well-known source.” The
scammers pretend to be an internet service provider, a bank, a mortgage
company, or other entities. – Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC provides more information on how to deal with phishing attacks.

Thinking about making changes to your business? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Phishing Attacks – How Many Hooks are There?

Amazingly, about 1 in every 100 e-mails are part of a phishing attack.
That’s right, you and your employees are likely hit with several a week since
nearly a third of phishing emails aren’t caught by spam or firewalls. The
threat is very real and very common, and they’re on the rise.  SmallBizTrends reported an increase in
phishing attacks of 65% from 2016-17.

Why do they do it? Simple, it works. According to SmallBiz trends, 83% of
people were hooked by a phishing attack resulting in some disruption and
damage. These ranged from productivity loss (67%) to data loss and reputation
damage (both around 50%). They go on to say that “2 in 3 phishing attempts use
a malicious link, and over half contains malware”.

Two Most Common Types of Phishing Attacks

Most Common – Malware Attack

About ½ of all phishing attacks are malware attacks. These attacks have
hidden code which triggers a malicious download. This malware allows the hacker
a number of options for ransomware, stealing, spying, and other malicious
activities.

2nd Most Common – Credential Harvesting

Roughly, 4 out of every 10 phishing attacks try to harvest your credentials,
like your password or credit card information for instance. This can wreak
havoc to your business or personal credit. 
However, it’s mainly to use you as a trojan horse to attack a larger
site with more information.

There are other types
of phishing attacks
, which SmallBizTrends cited.

What Can You Do to Avoid Getting Hooked by a Phishing Attack?

The most inexpensive way is to follow the steps outlined in our video.
However, that relies on people being vigilant, which can be prone to failure. A
more expensive approach is to purchase an e-mail security platform for your
business. Capterra lists
several companies, none of which post their pricing.  After a little research though, we found that
they charged around $5/user/month to protect Microsoft 365 users.

Summary – How Not to Hooked by a Phishing Attack?

Vigilance. It’s important to educate every employee on how to manage their e-mails to avoid these threats. Once they take the bait, they’re hooked, and the phishing attack damage is done. At ProStrategix, we have an e-mail policy which is part of our core employee training. At a minimum, we recommend you do the same.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Small Business Cyber Security & Why Be Concerned

Small Business Cyber Security

Small business cyber security & attacks rarely make the news, but small businesses are among the biggest targets. Having had to deal with one ourselves, we know.  In fact, “43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses” according to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR).  The most common is ransomware.

Why are small businesses so vulnerable?  Simple, time.  Most of us are so busy running our day-to-day operations.  Who has time to focus on Phishing scams or other cyber-attacks?

Thinking about making changes to your business? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Small Business Cyber Security Assistance Act

While it sounds great, it sadly underdelivers. It authorizes the nation’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to “work with” the Department of Homeland Security to, according to  The Hill, “provide consulting to small businesses on how to strengthen their cybersecurity protocols.”  New materials and education programs are also tools?. -Small Business Trends

Sounds good, right?  Not quite.  While the bill has good intentions, the policy execution has problems.

Problem #1: Have You Ever Heard of SBDC?

Right.  I didn’t think so.  So, how can they provide “consultation” on small business cybersecurity if you don’t know they exist?  Sadly, this bill does not include funds to drive awareness of SBDC.  Therefore, if you don’t know about it now, you’re not likely to learn about them in the future.  The idea that the centers will be sufficient to “provide consulting to small businesses on how to strengthen their cybersecurity protocols” is like pouring money down the drain.

Problem #2: Raise Your Hand if You Own a Server?

Again, didn’t think so.  Most small companies have switched to, or started with cloud-based applications.  We do.  I bet you do, too.  This makes our data security dependent upon big tech companies.  While this bill is focusing on us, where is the accountability for those hosting the data – Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others?

Small Business Cyber Security Assistance Act Alternatives

Solution #1: Make Tech Companies Liable for Small Business Losses

While you could sue them for data losses, good luck!  The playing field is completely imbalanced.  If this bill really wanted to help small businesses, it should require big data companies to provide compensation to their small business customers when they screw up.  Regulation of the tech industry is sadly lacking.  Congress is not known for being tech-savvy. 

Solution #2: Cyber Insurance

Who has heard of cyber insurance?  Few have.  It is available, and it’s probably the best option to protect yourself.  It’s just an added cost.  This bill could help small businesses if it would provide some financial guarantees for insurance companies, similar to what they do for the Small Business Administration loans.  Some assistance to help pay for cyber insurance would make it more affordable and accessible.

If this legislation passes, it’s unlikely to do much in terms of helping reduce small business cyber-attacks.  In this jump-start application world, you have two options.  First, put your faith in tech companies acting responsibly with your data, or alternatively, invest in some cyber insurance.

In summary, Congress is woefully behind the times in tech. This is nothing new. This is one area where infrastructure improvements could significantly help small businesses cybersecurity, but in the meantime, we should take precautionary steps to protect ourselves.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.